Allan Darwen - Ayr, Qld

Back in 2003 I had not long moved to Ayr running the family Pub. I had met a pretty cool chick, and her Dad was a “pro fisherman” that had a hut down at one of the creeks.

Then I saw it.. a 17 foot fibro centre console with a 115 Johnno.  It looked super cool with “Let’s Go” painted up the side. It should be just the thing I need...

Anyway we got the boat and cruise out heading for the reef, me thinking old mate (the girl’s dad) knew what he was doing. I didn't even have a boat licence then, and holy shit it was rough…

But we kept going. Me, my brother, 2 girls and the girls dad. Eventually we ended up aborting the reef trip and just went around the spit into cape bowling green to get out of the weather..

We waited a while then decided to head back around, I reckon it was worse…

About 500 meters from the end of the spit a big wave hits us from behind and the motor dies and after a while of trying to get it running, I discovered the radio doesn’t work either…

So we drift a bit closer to shore, put out an anchor front and back and swim to an old hut the yachties use to dry off and stay the night. We are so lucky it was there or it would have been a wild night on the beach.

As I am laying on this bunk I’m watching the boat’s green light come up then disappear with the waves, when all of a sudden I am watching the red light, then no lights .. it was going to be a long walk home..

Next day we find the boat washed up on the beach half full of water and sand and no chance of getting it back into the drink. After a while we decided to start walking home, bugger all phone reception in those days, but my brother kept running up sand dunes to see if he could get reception. I said to the crew, I run a pub, someone will miss me for sure, but nup.. they just thought I was out on the grog somewhere.

After about 3 hours a couple of blokes on Quads turn up, one of them gives my brother a lift back to Alva beach to ring the old man. They then said they would go back and try to get the boat, while we kept walking.

A bit later the old man comes charging up the beach in a 6 week old Nissan Patrol with 2 other blokes and my brother. I’m thinking bugger him, it is dam boggy up here.. but we all jump in and head back, 3 ton of truck with 8 people in it is not good.

We come to a bit of a gutter and instead of speeding up, Dad slows up and yep, sunk to the runner boards in thick mud.

One of the blokes says he knows a bloke with a tractor and runs off to Alva, still about 5 km away. Dad had not even had a chance to put the high lift jack in, so no matter how much we dug with our hands it was no good and with a 3 meter tide roaring in, I wondered if insurance would cover it.

Old mate then turns up with a old land cruiser tray back, but scared of bogging himself he won’t come close enough. He looks around and says, “ it must be 10 years since I’ve seen a vehicle up this far, it’s still here somewhere..” So I tie a snatch strap and a couple of ropes together and says to him, you will not snatch this out, I just need to get pulled to the sand and I should be right, but nup off he goes full noise and keeps breaking the ropes. I wasn’t even in the car for one attempt! Last go, if it breaks again we are screwed, but he finally listens to me and the Nissan slides out onto the sand. I yelled at everyone to get in and floor it, the poor truck didn’t know what hit it.

We get back to the pub, have a quick feed and stubby and go get old mates boat. A very old 16 foot open fibro boat with a 60 yammy. The plan is to go in from the Haughton river and get to the spit through a bit of sheltered water, but nup.. it was just as bad. I had just said to him screw this, turn around, I’ll get a mate to back date insurance, when his daughter rang and said my boat was back at Alva Beach. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but was pretty happy so we turned around and tried to find the mouth of the Haughton in the dark.

After one or two wrong creeks, we finally head back up the Haughton, and old mate is going flat out. Unfortunately the water was lapping over the bank by then and he mistook a gap in the mangroves for the river. Me and him were at the back, my brother and 2 other mates up the front and we hit the bank at full noise. They get thrown on the bank and me and old mate get thrown up the nose. We all get up, stand in a line and have a pee… then we all turn at the same time, look at the boat and piss ourselves laughing.

We eventually get back to the ramp and just as we pull up my brother dives out of the boat and comes up with a fish, caught with his hands and says I finally caught one!!

Back to the pub to lick our wounds and have 40 beers.. Next day I went to see the bloke who bought the boat back and asked them how they got it home. They said the tide was up so it nearly floated by itself, and once they had it in the water it started first kick and they drove it home.

I ended up learning heaps about boats with that old thing. I completely rebuilt it, new stringers, double fibreglass, painted up with the help from a work for the dole mob I was supervising.. and to be honest, I probably spent more time paddling it than driving it. Once from way up Morrissies. It used about a litre per minute but it was a bit sad to sell the old girl.

I now have a 5 meter seajay with a 90 optimax, a bit more reliable, especially with the kids…